Commercial Photography and Filming


Production companies frequently choose Cabrillo National Monument as the location for commercial film and photography shoots.

NPS Photo



Because of its scenic location, Cabrillo National Monument is frequently sought after by filmmakers and photographers. Look closely on television programs, movies, and in catalogs: you may recognize the lighthouse, tidepool area, or other park features as a backdrop for actors and models. The National Park Service allows commercial filming and photography within the National Park System to the fullest extent possible consistent with the protection of the park resources and the visitor's enjoyment of the park.

Commercial filming is defined as digital or film recording of a visual image or sound recording by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience, such as for a documentary, television or feature film, advertisement, or similar project. Under Public Law 106-206, all commercial filming requires a permit and is subject to a location fee and cost recovery.


The decision to require a permit for still photography activities in a park is based on the activity itself as opposed to the eventual use of the image. Generally, permits are not required for still photography activities unless:

  • The activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  • The activity uses model(s), set(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
  • The park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.

If none of these conditions exist, a permit is not required.

In Public Law 106-206, Congress expressed the importance of resource protection and provided that the permit request should be denied if:

  • There is the likelihood that resource damage would occur that cannot be mitigated or restored under the terms and conditions of a permit;
  • There is the likelihood of unreasonable disruption of or conflict with the public's use and enjoyment of the site;
  • There is the likelihood that the activity poses health or safety risks to the public;
  • There is the likelihood that the activity would result in the impairment of park resources or values;
  • The requested activity will violate any other applicable Federal, State, or local law or regulation.

Approved permits will include appropriate terms and conditions to protect the resources, ensure public health and safety, and prevent unreasonable disruption of the public's use and enjoyment. Permits will also include a hold harmless clause, liability insurance, and a bond, if deemed necessary.


News coverage does not require a permit, for either filming or still photography, but is subject to time, place, and manner restrictions, if warranted, to maintain order and ensure the safety of the public and the media, and protect natural and cultural resources.


All commercial filming permits and still photography permits are statutorily subject to cost recovery and a location fee, neither of which may be waived. The location fee is determined by the type of activity (commercial filming versus still photography) and is determined by the number of permitted days and the number of people on park lands associated with the permitted activity. There is no deviation from the schedule. A day is defined as a continuous 24 hour period.


  • 1-10 people $150.00/day
  • 11-30 people $250.00/day
  • 31-49 people $500.00/day
  • Over 50 people $750.00/day


  • 1-10 people $50.00/day
  • 11-30 people $150.00/day
  • Over 30 people $250.00/day


To address the needs of videographers and cinematographers who produce nature films highlighting the wonders of national parks, the following provision is in effect:

Commercial videographers, cinematographers, or sound recording crews of up to two people with only minimal equipment (i.e., a camera and a tripod) working in areas open to the public are required to obtain a commercial filming permit and are subject to appropriate permit terms and conditions and cost recovery charges but are not subject to location fees.


  • When a filming permit is required, liability insurance naming Cabrillo National Monument/National Park Service as additionally insured is also required. The minimum amount of the liability coverage is $2,000,000.00.
  • With the exception of vehicles with handicap permits issued by park rangers, all vehicles must be parked in the parking area.
  • The Commercial Film/Photography worksheet with proof of insurance must be submitted at least three days prior to filming. Once all aspects of the filming project have been approved, a Commercial Film Permit will be issued.
  • The use of all props and equipment other than photographic equipment must be listed and approved in the Commercial Film Permit.
  • The granting of a Commercial Film Permit does not constitute an implied or expressed endorsement of any commercial product or service by CabrilloNational Monument or the National Park Service.
  • Commercial filming in the Lighthouse requires the compliance with specific guidelines. Applicants should contact the Park Historian for additional information.
  • Film crews must not interfere with the enjoyment of visitors or force visitors to leave a certain area of the monument in order to conduct the filming.
  • Vehicles are not permitted off paved surfaces.
  • Film crews must remain on paved surfaces or designated trails.
  • Photographing or filming motor vehicles around the Lighthouse is not permitted.
  • Commercial film permittees and associated staff identified in the permit will not be charged the entrance fee.


To download the short form Application for Commercial Filming/Still Photography Permit, click here. A short form application is used for small scale shoots: still photography, minimal set-up and equipment, and short in duration.

To download the long form Application for Commercial Filming/Still Photography Permit, click here. A long form is used for more elaborate shoots: feature films, television series, extensive logistics and equipment.



To obtain a Commercial Film/Photography Worksheet, or for more information, please call (619) 557-5450, extension 4577 or extension 4566.
You can also email us.

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